Steven Severin (born Steven John Bailey; 25 September 1955) is an English musician, composer, producer and co-founding member of Siouxsie and the Banshees. He took the name "Severin" from the Leopold von Sacher-Masoch character who is mentioned in the Velvet Underground song "Venus in Furs". Severin had earlier considered "Steve Spunker" for his stage name. After the split of Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1996, Severin created his own label RE: and released several instrumental albums via his official website. In the late 2000s and the early 2010s, he regularly performed live in solo, playing music over footage of silent films.
Severin in June 1986
|Birth name||Steven John Bailey|
|Born||25 September 1955|
Highgate, London, England
|Genres||Post-punk, gothic rock, alternative rock, new wave|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, songwriter, producer|
|Instruments||Bass guitar, keyboards|
|Labels||Polydor, Geffen Records, RE: Records, Subconscious Music|
|Associated acts||Siouxsie and the Banshees|
He grew up in Archway and moved in Bromley at the age of 11. On a Sunday afternoon in 1971, he discovered German rock band Can thanks to a schoolfriend's elder brother in the army who was stationed in Hamburg. At 15, Severin saw Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band in concert in London which was a life changing experience.
His favourite writers when he was a teenager, were William Burroughs and Jean Genet amongst others: he said, "Since I was very young I’ve always felt the need to retreat into my head and scratch around the rim of my imagination to shut out the trivia and carelessness of the world outside".
Siouxsie and the BansheesEdit
Severin—who was known as Steven Havoc when he joined the band—was the co-founder. He was a full contributor to Siouxsie and the Banshees' musical output from the first release (the B-side to the top 10 single "Hong Kong Garden" was the Severin-penned "Voices").
Although the entire band often was credited for songwriting, the lyrics were usually indicated as the work of only one or two members. Severin would contribute lyrics to many of the album tracks, singles and B-sides produced by the band. He also initially wrote many of the songs recorded by the band, composing earlier versions that the band would work together to perfect. In the same way he would add his input into potential tracks contributed by Sioux or others.
He recorded 11 studio albums with the group. Since their split in 1996, he has been supervising the entire back-catalogue, choosing extra-tracks for reissues.
Other artists and bandsEdit
During his tenure with Siouxsie and the Banshees, Severin was also involved in records by other bands, often with Banshees connections. Altered Images had toured as a support act for Siouxsie and the Banshees and Severin produced their first two singles "Dead Pop Stars" and "A Day's Wait". He also produced the majority of the album Happy Birthday (all 1981). The only track not produced by him was the title track (which also formed the intro and coda), which became the band's breakthrough hit. When the record company realized that "Happy Birthday" had a commercial potential, they asked Martin Rushent to re-record it at the last minute.
In 1982, he produced, and played bass on, the Lydia Lunch EP The Agony Is the Ecstasy and in 1983 co-wrote the song "Torment" with Marc Almond on the latter's LP Torment and Toreros (by Marc and the Mambas). In 1985, he produced an EP of The Flowerpot Men, titled Jo's so mean to Josephine which "has become a proto-techno classic".
Severin's work outside the Banshees, in this period, is however most known for The Glove, his side project with The Cure's (and then current Banshee guitarist) Robert Smith. Severin came up with the name, the title and the blue/yellow sleeve concept. This led to the release of the album Blue Sunshine and two attendant singles. The album reached number 35 in the UK charts in 1983 and the single "Like an Animal" peaked just outside the UK top 50. The next single from the album, "Punish Me with Kisses", only just made it into the top 100. Though Smith did sing on a few tracks, the featured vocalist is Jeanette Landray – a friend of Banshee drummer Budgie who was at the time involved in progressing a musical relationship with Siouxsie under The Creatures banner. The album is noted for its low-level musical interludes between tracks.
Musically close enough to the differing Cure and Banshee styles to attract large sections of both sets of fans, the more experimental nature and references to 1960's psychedelia and pop-art also attracted a more eclectic audience. The use of keyboards and synthesizers, as well as the inclusion of instrumental only tracks, were also an early pointer to Severin's post Banshee musical output.
Solo work: 1989–presentEdit
Severin's post-Banshees output was the Visions of Ecstasy soundtrack, created for the Nigel Wingrove short film interpretation of the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila. This 1989 sensual fantasy film remained unreleased until 2012, as it has been refused a certificate on the grounds of blasphemy – the only film so banned by The British Board of Film Classification. The four parts written by Severin for the soundtrack, "Sphere", "Come Deliver Us", "Skin Crawl" and "Transverberation of the Heart", formed the basis of his first post-Banshees release. Almost 10 years after creating the Visions of Ecstasy soundtrack, Severin released an album entitled Visions, featuring four tracks derived from the original pieces written for the film, plus another five instrumentals. Severin completely reworked the soundtrack – originally eighteen minutes long – into a forty-five-minute ambient album. It was also the first release by Severin's RE: records label. The record also featured Banshees' cello player and keyboardist Martin McCarrick. Visions was first only available via his website and was then distributed by Cargo.
In 1999, Severin released Maldoror. The origins for this instrumental album were as far back as 1993, when Severin wrote some tracks for Brazilian Theatre Company "Os Satyros" production of Lautréamont's Chants of Maldoror. After losing and regaining contact with the group, Severin composed further pieces for the 1998 production Os Cantos des Maldoror. These pieces were collected together and released on CD. That same year, Severin had been invited to be musical director for the Canadian dance company "Holy Body Tattoo" on CIRCA – described as a 70-minute multimedia "celebration of the sensual forces of submission and control" – a postmodern deconstruction of the tango that interwove film footage by William Morrison and original music by Severin, Warren Ellis and cult cabaret trio The Tiger Lillies. The music from CIRCA was largely drawn from Martyn Jacques and company's album Circus Songs. Severin contributed keyboards and also produced this album for the Tiger Lillies.
Severin's third RE: release, The Woman in the Dunes was specially commissioned by Shakti and the Vasanta Mala dance company to accompany the stage production of the Kōbō Abe novel of the same name. It premiered at the ICA in the summer of 2000. The only vocal included is "I Put a Spell on You"; a version of the Screaming Jay Hawkins classic sung by Jarboe (ex Swans).
Severin returned to composing soundtracks, and in 2003 film director Robert Pratten approached Severin to compose the soundtrack for his first film, a British independent supernatural thriller called London Voodoo. The film contained four tracks that Severin collaborated on with his wife and songwriting partner Arban, under the name "Darling Hate". As a result of this new direction, Severin wound down his RE: label to concentrate on writing for film and television.
London Voodoo was followed by a soundtrack for The Purifiers, the second film feature by Richard Jobson, which premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2004. The tracks extensively used in the score were "Enter Into These Bonds" from Visions and "Prelude:Europa" from Maldoror.
In 2005, Severin released another album based on a soundtrack originally commissioned by the Indo/Japanese performer Shakti in August 2003 for her interpretation of the story of Beauty and the Beast. The album Beauty and the Beast is credited to Arban and Steven Severin. It was the first release on their Subconscious Music label. Though jointly credited, the 50-minute score was created in an original manner which owed much to the circumstances in producing it. As it was commissioned to accompany a dance production, the titles and timing of each individual part was already decided upon by Shakti, who also suggested the theme for each piece. Owing to other commitments upon their time, it was decided by Arban and Severin that each would work on alternating pieces individually. Arban Severin took responsibility for the odd-numbered tracks and Severin for the others. After a piece was substantially completed it was given over to the other partner to review and to make contributions. Only when both parties were satisfied was the track considered finished.
This method of working was renewed for the following project, the soundtrack for director Paul Burrow's psychological thriller "Nature Morte" (Still Life). This film score recording was released on 16 October 2006, again under the Subconscious Music label. In the mid-2000s, Severin left London and moved to Scotland to reside in Edinburgh.
In 2008, Severin started composing scores for silent films of the 1920s and 1930s, the first being Germaine Dulac’s The Seashell and the Clergyman: he also made scores for 6 short films and got in contact with Picturehouse, to play in their cinemas in the UK. The first "Music for Silents" show was done in May.
In 2009, Severin and Arban scored director Matthew Mishory's film Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman, a tribute to Steven's old friend Derek Jarman. The film has been permanently installed in the British Film Institute's National Film Archive, in the special collection Beautiful Things, "a major collection of over 100 films and television programmes that chronicle and explore queer representation and identities over the last century".
In 2010 Severin released his debut album for Cold Spring titled Blood of a Poet. The album is a recording of his soundtrack for a 1930 silent movie by Jean Cocteau which was screened alongside his live performance at Montreal's Fantasia festival. After the premiere of the tour performed at The Hollywood Silent Film Theatre in Los Angeles, a UK tour took place in autumn 2010.
In 2011, Severin and Arban renewed their collaboration with filmmaker Matthew Mishory, scoring his feature film Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean: the film would be released a couple of years later. That year, Severin also composed a score to Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr; it was his second collaboration with the label Cold Spring. Vampyr was the longest score he ever attempted. It completed a trilogy that had started with The Seashell & The Clergyman then Blood of a Poet. He then went on tour in Europe in 2012.
After a hiatus of several years, he released in March 2017 via his website a 6-track album The Vril Harmonies, followed in April by another 8-track album Innocence and Blood and #002FA7 (International Klein Blue). In 2019, a 23 minute track titled 23 Wounds Of Julius Caesar (reincarnation) was dedicated to the memory of Jhon Balance (co-founder of the group Coil) and Peter Christopherson (of Throbbing Gristle).
Influences and styleEdit
After first seeing Paul McCartney at an early age, the first bass player who impressed him was Jack Bruce. Then in the early 1970s, Can's Holger Czukay became his bass hero. Severin played bass in an unusual way, hitting strings "upside down". He stated: "It just came naturally. Moving slowly up and down seems so passive to me considering the music was so aggressive. It's also about the precision of every single note".
Commenting his work as film composer, he said: " I dislike [...] signposts emotions. [...] You just have to create a bed for the emotion that’s already there, to heighten it".
In the late 1990s, Severin wrote several articles which were published in The Guardian and The Independent. In 2000, he published The Twelve Revelations; a collection of Severin's erotic prose/poetry, illustrated with line drawings by Catharyne Ward.
For his works with Siouxsie and The Banshees, see Siouxsie & the Banshees discography.
- Visions (1998)
- Maldoror (1999)
- The Woman in the Dunes (2000)
- UnisexDreamSalon (2001)
- London Voodoo (Original Soundtrack) (2004)
- Beauty & The Beast (2005)
- Nature Morte (Original Soundtrack) (2006)
- Music for Silents (2008)
- Eros Plus Massacre (2009)
- Blood of a Poet (Cold Spring 2010)
- Vampyr (2012)
- The Vril Harmonies (2017)
- Innocence and Blood (2017)
- #002fa7 International Klein Blue (2017)
- 23 Wounds of Julius Caesar (reincarnation) (2019)
- SleeperCell (Lumberton Trading 2010)
- Circles of Silver (Lumberton Trading 2010)
- Hours of Gold (Lumberton Trading 2010)
- Idols of Glass (Erototox Decodings 2011)
- Wand of Flame (Erototox Decodings 2011)
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- Steven Severin Blood Of A Poet (Le Sang D'Un Poète) coldspring.co.uk. Retrieved August 2014
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- "Gig Steven Severin Sold Out!". peacockvisualarts.com. Archived from the original on 3 February 2020. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- "A Portrait of James Dean | Written and Directed by Matthew Mishory". Joshuatree1951.com. Archived from the original on 7 June 2015. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
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- Owens, David (16 February 2012). "Silence is golden for Siouxsie and the Banshees' Steven Severin". walesonline. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
- Graham, Ben (30 April 2012). "The Art of Soundtracking: Steven Severin". The Quietus. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
- "23 Wounds Of Julius Caesar (reincarnation)". stevenseverin.com. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
- "Answers from Steven Severin". Apinkdream.org. 18 May 2005. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 2 September 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- "Steven Severin and Danny Plotnick". Electricsheepmagazine. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
- "In The BE:ginning Was The Word: Severin's articles for The Guardian, The Independent & The Passion". StevenSeverin.com. 2000. Archived from the original on 17 April 2001. Retrieved 2 September 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- "Re Collection News - Steven Severin". StevenSeverin.com. 7 November 2000. Archived from the original on 19 November 2000. Retrieved 12 September 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- Steven Severin (2000). The Twelve Revelations. Oneiros Books. ISBN 1902197038.
- Steven Severin official website − The official Steven Severin website with recordings available on both digital and physical cds